Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Barton Estate

Strictly speaking Barton Estate shouldn’t be in the A2Z because it isn’t open to the public – I was thrown by a couple of web entries that suggested you could arrange tastings by appointment. Unfortunately, tastings aren’t offered but you can order the wines via the website (a word of warning, at the time of writing the wine list on the web is from 2005 but apparently the site is soon to be upgraded).

When we spoke to co-proprietor Julie Chitty she also suggested trying the Kingston Hotel bottle-o and Jim Murphy’s Airport Cellars for a limited selection and Braddon Cellars for a fuller range. We struck out with the Kingston Hotel and Braddon Cellars but we did find a few varieties on sale at Jim Murphy’s, all around the $16 mark and all from the 2003 vintage.

We chose a 2003 Carbernets Merlot – it’s not a typo, the wine is a mix of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot. The label suggested that it could be drunk immediately or cellared for up to five years, so keep in mind the wine was a year past its recommended best.

Our first taste showed the fruit had faded somewhat but there was a hit of blackberries on the nose. Our man in Canberra claimed to have also picked up ‘traces of cassis’ but I suspect he’s just been reading Huon Hooke again.

The wine had good structure and the tannins had softened to the point where I start to enjoy the cabernets. Initially, when I tried it with food it seemed a little too astringent for simple roast lamb and taters but I think this might have been caused by the liberal amounts of Crockershire mint sauce I soused my peas with, because after awhile I found myself enjoying a strong hint of red currant on the palate.

The next day we drank the remainder (one of the benefits of writing this guide is learning to leave a bit in the bottle for follow up analysis, something new to both of us) with roast chicken and salad and it didn’t disappoint. The wine had softened a little more and unexpectedly, the fruit flavours were more apparent.

I admit one wine does not a tasting make, but Julie reckons the petite verdot has been well received and as I’m a bit of fan of the variety I’ll be keeping an eye out for it and Barton Estate in the future.

Barton Estate
Not open to the public - mail order only
(02) 6230 9553
0412 229348

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We didn’t start the fireside festival.

Towards the end of May, I noticed the Fireside Festival website was still carrying information for August 2008. Having survived a memorable long weekend during Stanthorpe’s Brass Monkey Season in my youth, I subscribed to email updates/newsletters for this year’s event. By late June nothing had come through, so I checked back and found the 2008 information was still up.

Yesterday the ABC carried a report the festival was set to kick off on 1 August. Also that fine journal of record Canberra Weekly Magazine ran a full page advert of the festival program.

I’m yet to receive any updates and by the looks of it, a couple of events are already booked out, so if you fancy fine wine, food, flicks and fires just point your browser here for more details.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Affleck Vineyard

Talk about an unexpected discovery. Who’d have guessed acclaimed actor, writer and director, Ben Affleck has further cemented his claim to renaissance man status with a foray into Canberra winemaking.

Okay, he hasn't really, I made that part up (hey I’m a blogger and apparently it’s what we do). Fact is, there is no Affleck, Ben or otherwise, at Affleck Vineyard. It’s Susie and Ian Hendry who are responsible for the 4-hectare vineyard that was established at Millynn Road, Bungendore in 1976.

The name Affleck doesn’t refer to a person but to an Anglicised version of the Gaelic achadh-nan-leac which means a field of flagstones. You do get a hint of the rock field as you negotiate the gravel drive and pass an imposing dry stonewall.

The cellar door is unpretentious. There’s no attempt to charm you into liking the wine because a small fortune was spent on the decor. Instead the tasting area overlooks the engine room of the winery and the stainless steel vats have an honest, hands on appeal.

Sue Hendry and Ellie, (the obligatory friendly winery dog), were on duty the day we visited. Affleck offers basic wine tasting – there’s no food but plenty of tables and chairs on the verandah and Sue says visitors are welcome to bring their own provisions. An idea I squirreled away for future visits to smaller establishments.

Ian Hendry’s 30 plus years of experience as a vintner was evident in the wines. I tried a particularly good 2008 rosé, which had a pinot noir base, fine structure and a nice dry finish. There’s now a bottle on the rack at home waiting for a warm day and a picnic.

The 2005 pinot noir was just as good. It had a lighter mouth feel with a good flavour profile – a smoky, spicy quality that would go well with pan-fried duck breast. Showing admirable disregard for our advice we drank it with a spicy goat stew and the dregs with a rather more pedestrian home cooked burger a day later. While some of the smoky qualities were suppressed by the spiciness of the goat stew, it held up well, with a few savoury notes coming to the fore. The next day what remained was still drinking well and the smoky/spiciness evident at the tasting was enhanced by the simple flavours of the hamburger.

I also enjoyed the Affleck Vineyard sticky – a late picked sauvignon blanc – odd because I’m not a big fan of dessert wines. Even the chardy was good. While not the crisp chablis style I favour, it avoided the big overblown, over-oaked style that for many pushed this variety onto the shun list.

Also available for tasting, was an 04 merlot cabernet, a 2003 cabernet shiraz, a 2008 semillon, a sparkling pinot, as well as some fortified wines that we didn’t try. They were all priced between $10 and $20 – and represent good value if you’re cheap careful with money like our man in Canberra.

Not knowing what to expect, Affleck Vineyard was a good place to start our exploration of Canberra wineries. The drive was pleasant, the wines were good and the owners friendly.

Affleck Vineyard
154 Millynn Road, Bungendore NSW 2621
Ph 02 6236 9276
Mob 0415 484 113

Open 9am – 5pm Friday to Wednesday and public holidays. NB, during July and August 2009, open by appointment on so make sure you phone first.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New York style comes to Canberra

During a recycling purge, I grabbed an old copy CityNews that was open at a Colliers International ad for “New York Style Offices” in Civic, Canberra's de facto CBD.

Included with the usual bumf was the promise of eco-friendly features, to wit, “ability to open windows” (and in case you didn’t get it, this was further clarified) “for fresh air”.

The advert also mentioned water-saving technology but I expect this was just a brick dropped in the lavvy cistern by the real estate agent before inspection. Opening windows, imagine that. New York innovation comes to Canberry.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Canberra wineries A2Z

We’ve lived in Canberra for a couple of years now but our knowledge of the local grape is shamefully lacking. Having visited one or two wineries in a very haphazard way, and with little to guide us other than the King James Wine Bible, we've decided to embark on our own leisurely winery discovery tour.

I should make it clear right upfront, we are not wine obsessives experts. We have no formal training in the art of sniffing, swilling and spitting but we know our preferences (and significant blindspots) reasonably well and also what wines compliment the modest fare that finds it way from our kitchen to the dining room table.

Over the next few months we’ll try to visit all the wineries that are open to the public around the Canberra region and share any worthwhile information in a very rough guide to Canberra wineries A2Z.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A message from John Hartigan on behalf of Aussie journalism

Then there are the bloggers.

In return for their free content, we pretty much get what we’ve paid for - something of such limited intellectual value as to be barely discernible from massive ignorance.

News Limited Chairman and CEO John Hartigan in a speech to the National Press Club on 1 July, text via Crikey.

Consider yourself warned. Now go out and buy a print copy of The Australian, you digital backsliders. And no smartarse questions about what The Punch most resembles either.

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